VP of Development to retire in December

Courtesy Photo/ GVSU
Maribeth Wardrop

Courtesy Photo/ GVSU Maribeth Wardrop

Samantha Butcher

After 12 years and $200 million in raised funds for the university, Maribeth Wardrop, vice president of Development at Grand Valley State University, will leave her position at the end of the December.

“It’s been a joy,” Wardrop said. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with the donors that I’ve worked with.”

Before retiring, Wardrop will work as a consultant to the new vice president to help ease the transition for two or three years. No replacement has been found yet.

GVSU President Thomas J. Haas praised Wardrop’s contributions to the university.

“When you look around our campuses, you certainly see the generosity of our supporters, but you also see the results of Maribeth’s hard work,” Haas said in a press release. “She assembled an incredible team, and all of us will enjoy the results for many years to come.”

Under Wardrop, faculty and alumni giving has increased dramatically, reaching a gold standard. Currently, more than 51 percent of faculty and staff donate to the university, a level Wardrop described as “unheard of.”

The Development office has also started initiatives to increase alumni giving in the past few years. Alumni in 2011 donated $4.4 million to the university, up from $1.3 million in 2009.

“Alumni giving hasn’t been a big push until about five years ago,” Wardrop said. “So we’re working on that and I think we should in ten years be where we need to be.”

Before coming to GVSU, Wardrop worked for 13 years as VP of Development at Aquinas College, which shares many donors with GVSU. There was no Development office when Wardrop arrived, but she worked with then-President Arend D. Lubbers, GVSU’s “icon of fundraising,” to create one.

“Don was leaving and he needed somebody who knew the area and who knew the donors, and I knew both,” she said.

Wardrop said the creation of the Development office was one of her greatest achievements while at GVSU.

“When I came to Grand Valley, there was not a Development department,” she said. “There was nothing. They were making major asks and they were getting major gifts, and I set a vision of what a Development department looked like and I started to build it, and we’ve achieved that vision. So that’s what I’ll take away – achieving the vision that I came with.”

The most recent campaign to come out of Wardop’s tenure, which was also the university’s largest comprehensive campaign, was the Shaping Our Future campaign, which raised $96.4 million from 17,000 doors over four years. The campaign funds went to endowed chairs, scholarships, the Seidman Center and the Mary Idema Pew Library. The campaign will be Wardrop’s final large-scale project for the university.

Wardrop said that the reaction from donors has been remarkable.

“It’s so rewarding when I’ve asked someone for a gift of $2, $3, $4 million, and when the project’s over, they come up to me and say, ‘Thank you,’” Wardrop said. “They say thank you to me for asking them for a gift. That’s rewarding.”

After her consulting period ends, Wardrop said she plans to travel with her husband and spend time with her grandchildren, which will include a trip to LegoLand.

Wardrop will end her time at the university on a positive note.

“It’s more than I could have ever wished for,” she said. “It’s been a positive, positive, positive experience.”

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